For a very long time I thought of playing the classical guitar as a solitary activity, conducted alone, where progress was measured by the ability to play a new piece, or to play an old piece better. Events over the past few weeks have proven me wrong and it has been quite an education.

I started to list these things as “first, next, last” but that does not work because it forces a priority that is not really there. So although these items are in order, they are all of equal importance.

  • I tested in the online school for guitar where I am a member. The test consisted of recording 4 pieces of repertoire and a longish technical routine, then posting it to a corner of the website reserved for such things. The “community” part of this does not have to do with taking the test, but with the reaction to it. (although testing is a shared experience in the community) Multiple members posted follow-up messages commenting on things they liked in the test. As someone who only hears what was wrong, reading what people thought was right was very interesting and went a long way to reducing my stress over the test. I have since spent some time this week listening and commenting on other players in the forum.
  • I spent time this week rehearsing a duet with a member of the Classical Guitar Society. The piece was by William Foden (someone who will become the focus of a future blog entry) and I had practiced one of the two parts. I was unsure of how I would do, but by the final run through of the day we made something that could pass as music. Hearing this, and playing this, gives a feeling of accomplishment that I never got when playing by myself and is a genuine pleasure.
  • I have also been working on the ensemble pieces we will be playing at the members concert in June (see the upcoming events tab for details). The feeling here is different that when playing a duet because my piece in only one of three or four, and usually I am doubled by one or two other members. Here the feeling is still of accomplishment and pleasure, but very different. I think it is more like listening to a fugue.

I have read that fugues can be listened to as a “wall of sound” type piece (hmmm- is this where Phil Spector got the idea) or by following one of the voices, but never both ways at once. The listener needs to choose, and can shift back and forth, but only one choice can be heard at a time.

When playing in the ensemble I think this choice dims and you CAN hear both the individual parts you are playing, and the collective ensemble sound.

All these various group exercises have had several interesting benefits, not the least of which is to increase the number of pieces I can play, but also to play all my music better. I suspect I will return to this topic again as I look for something to write, but for now, and as usual, I seem to have gone on quite long enough.

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